A kind-hearted, forgiving reader writes:
Maybe Mrs. Loeb figured out what you were doing a month or two later but didn’t want to admit how dense she was.
No, she never figured it out. And it was Ms. Loeb, not Mrs. Loeb. Ms. Globe to us, for reasons hopefully obvious. When she’d sit at her desk, her round white sneakers could barely reach the floor, and I think she trimmed her short, brown hair with her own scissors.
Ms. Loeb was regulated to part-time teaching due to a back injury. Her partner was Mr. Meldrum, who had for years prior been my favorite subsitute teacher, known school-wide for his made-up nursery rhymes, with a thick Scottish accent that we thought was so funny. Here’s one of them:
There once was an old lady who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she sold them off one by one,
and moved to the Bahamas, ha ha ha ha ha ha.
I loved Mr. Meldrum, until he and Ms. Loeb became co-conspiritors in destroying my soul. Ms. Loeb handled the morning hours, and Mr. Meldrum would come in for the day shift.
His first line of attack was to dispense with the nursery rhymes.
But it was much worse than that. He didn’t believe me when I told him that I was too playing on a girls soccer team. He wouldn’t let me play during our sports hour! I had to sit on the sidelines and be the cheerleader with Stacy Gerber.
But this is about Ms. Loeb. Ms. Loeb sent me to the office at least once a week, because I wasn’t doing my homework. I’d have to do it there, she said. It just happened to be torture.
And when I’d come back, she’d preface her next sentence with, “A vord to the vise.” I don’t remember what she’d say after that, because I was fixated on the double standard that allowed her to mock a German accent, and very badly, but I write one story channeling the spirit of a New York gangster, and I’m going to be edited and censored and told that I’m doing it all wrong.
“Mrs. Kelly, we don’t know what’s wrong with Katie,” Ms. Loeb told my mom at the parent-teacher conference. “She spends considerable amounts of time staring out the window. We don’t understand what’s going on. We can’t get through.”
I knew what was going on. It’s what my Grandma called it, when I’d stare out the window at her house.
“She’s off in the woods again,” said my Grandma, laughing, which jolted me out of it.
“You were off in the woods,” she said again.
It couldn’t be that bad, I thought, if my Grandma’s laughing about it. This will explain everything.
“I guess I’m off in the woods,” I told Ms. Loeb. She’d get it.
“Off in the woods?” said Ms. Loeb. She took off her square little glasses, and leaned in to get a closer look at me.
“What kind of woods, Katie.”
What kind of woods? What kind of question is that?
Well, if you must know, in my mind, I was picturing a dark forest, with a small creek lined with wildflowers, with little gnomes running around, picking strawberries.
That’s not what she wanted to hear. She answered the question for me.
I was very, very lazy, she said. And flippant. Mr. Meldrum and even my mother nodded in agreement.
The solution was to move me to the other side of the room, away from the window, facing a perfectly good blank wall.
I am here to report that you don’t need to look at anything in particular when you’re off in the woods. I am so glad that I never told Ms. Loeb that.